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German Armed Forces Command helps sort donations to Food for Neighbors, which aims to tackle food insecurity (courtesy Renee Maxwell)

The first Food for Neighbors collection and sorting event of the year got help from a variety of local and regional groups — including the German General Armed Forces Command, an organization that has called Reston home since 1991.

The organization took part in the event at Herndon Middle School — Food for Neighbors’ original collection site — and presented the organization with a donation of more than $4,000 dollars.

The funds will go toward helping fight food insecurity among teens in 37 Northern Virginia schools.

“From the very first moment the German Armed Forces Command USA and Canada moved its office to Reston in April 1991, the soldiers, civilians and all their families felt heartily welcome in this great community. For all of us it is an irrefutable fact that we have found a home away from home,” Colonel Joerg Dronia wrote in a statement.

The organization’s founder and executive director Karen Joseph said the donation reflects the armed forces’ desire to be good neighbors.

“We are one of many organizations that have benefited from their generosity, and we thank them for all that they do to help our most vulnerable community members,” she wrote in a statement.

Sites in Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington counties sorted over 19,000 pounds of food donations that came from over 1,500 households, according to Food for Neighbors, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing student hunger.

“Fairfax County works very hard to help our most vulnerable population with food insecurity,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said. “However, we couldn’t do it without the tremendous efforts of our nonprofit partners such as Food For Neighbors. Congratulations on your success in helping our teens.”

The event was also attended by Town of Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem.

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Participants line up for the 2022 Polar Plunge at the Mosaic District (courtesy Sean Wallach/Special Olympics Virginia)

Special Olympics Virginia is ready to make another splash at the Mosaic District.

The nonprofit’s annual Polar Plunge fundraiser will return to the Merrifield community for a fourth year on Saturday, Jan. 14. As in previous years, participants will jump into a pool of icy water to raise money for the organization’s more than 18,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities.

The event is Special Olympics Virginia’s first fundraiser of the year and one of five planned in the state for 2023, according to Senior Director of Development Ellen Head.

“I love that we start things off with a plunge because long before we had unified sports (where people with and without disabilities play on a team together instead of segregated) we had plunges which, by nature, are unified,” Head told FFXnow by email. “We have Special Olympics athletes alongside of everyone else jumping into the cold pools!”

The Mosaic District hosted a plunge for the first time in 2019. The event returned in early 2020 before taking 2021 off due to the pandemic.

Like last year, the Polar Plunge will be held on Strawberry Lane in front of Target. Check-ins will start at noon, followed by a costume contest and award presentation at 1 p.m. and the actual plunging at 1:15 p.m.

Advance registration is currently open, and participants have already raised over $20,000, according to Special Olympics Virginia’s website. Proceeds from the Mosaic District plunge have grown every year, from roughly $35,000 in 2019 to $50,000 last year, according to Head.

For this year’s event, the nonprofit has partnered with Archer Hotel, which replaced the Hyatt House at the Mosaic District last year. As an incentive, the hotel will provide access to its suites before and after the plunge for the two teams and two individuals who raise the most money.

Collectively, the polar plunges raise close to $1.5 million each year, though Special Olympics Virginia hopes to exceed that mark in 2023, Head says.

The organization also hopes to see its program enrollment bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, which surpassed 23,000 athletes.

In addition to organizing free local and state-level sports programs and events, the nonprofit provides health and fitness resources. A clinic at its annual Summer Games offers free physical and mental health services, including dental, vision and hearing care.

“This is important since many of our athletes lack this care due to the limitations of Medicaid,” Heard said.

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Steve Descano named United Community’s Progreso Center as a recipient of a Community Partnership Grant (courtesy Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney)

A trio of local nonprofits that assist people who have experienced abuse and domestic violence got a little funding boost last week, courtesy of Fairfax County prosecutors.

On Thursday (Dec. 15), the Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney named the Women for Afghan Women (WAW) and United Community’s Progreso Literacy and Citizenship Center as the inaugural recipients of its new Community Partnership Grants, which are intended for organizations that serve victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and crimes against children.

Funds were also awarded to SafeSpot, which provides advocacy and support services to child victims of sexual and physical abuse and their families.

“My office is proud to partner with these three organizations that provide resources for victims,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said in a news release. “I am personally grateful for the work they do in our community — supporting victims throughout the legal process and helping them on the path to healing and recovery is critical work and will help make our community stronger and safer.”

The $8,000 grants are funded by proceeds from asset forfeiture, where law enforcement can seize and retain or sell property involved in a crime. Descano’s office didn’t share how much it gets from forfeitures but said it can grant up to $25,000 per year.

In Virginia, forfeited assets and the proceeds from any sales are put into a Department of Criminal Justice Services fund and then distributed back to the agencies that participated in the investigation that led to the seizures.

The money must be used “to promote law enforcement,” which could include victim services and other efforts to build relationships and encourage cooperation with the community, per state law.

The application for the Community Partnership Grants program asked organizations how they would use the grant to “support law enforcement, or improve the relationship between law enforcement and the Fairfax community.”

According to its website, SafeSpot is partnered with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the Fairfax County Police Department, among others, as part of its work to help victims and their families navigate criminal investigations and court proceedings.

Though headquartered in New York, WAW established an office in the Springfield area earlier this year that provides basic needs support, immigration-related legal services, counseling and educational classes to Virginia’s Afghan community, which is the second-largest in the country.

“The need for direct and comprehensive services has only increased since last summer,” WAW Program Manager Mariam Kakar said. “As the only Afghan-led organization that supports survivors of domestic violence, we look forward to using these funds to help many individuals and families in our local community.”

Founded in 1969 by faith groups and volunteers, United Community offers supportive services, such as food assistance, crisis intervention and more, with the goal of ending poverty, specifically along the Route 1 corridor.

Located in the Gerry Hyland Government Center in Mount Vernon, the Progreso center provides education, citizenship classes and legal services to immigrants, including survivors of domestic violence.

“As the leading human services non-profit agency in southeastern Fairfax County, United Community seeks out opportunities to collaborate with our allies throughout the community,” said Alison DeCourcey, the nonprofit’s president and CEO. “We’re grateful to Commonwealth’s Attorney Descano and his office for this grant, which will dramatically help us improve our reach and services to immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence.”

Descano, who is planning to seek reelection next year, hopes to make the community partnership grants an annual program, according to his office.

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Reston Sprint Triathlon will return next year (via CORE Foundation)

Restonians can officially enjoy a series of multi-sport events for adult and youth athletes, including a Reston staple: the Reston Triathlon.

CORE Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to address charitable needs, has launched “Racing in Reston,” a series of events that grows out of the popular Reston Sprint Triathlon, which started out as a singular community event in 2007.

The move revives the triathlon that had been organized each fall by the Reston Triathlon Association since 1984. Last year, the group announced that the event would be discontinued due to financial and logistical issues.

“CORE Foundation wants to see this event which was unique to so many families in our community, continue,” the foundation said in an announcement earlier this month, noting that it worked closely with the previous board to bring the triathlon back.

The event has been renamed the Reston Olympic Triathlon “to avoid confusion with our Sprint event,” event organizers said.

The “Racing in Reston” series includes the Reston Sprint Triathlon, which is slated to happen next year on June 4, and the second annual Reston superhero youth triathlon, which is coming in the fall of next year. The series will conclude with the 37th annual Reston Olympic Triathlon on Sept. 10, 2023.

Registration is currently open for the 17th annual Reston Sprint Triathlon. The cost of tickets is $110 for individuals and $200 for relays if purchased before Jan. 4.

The Olympic triathlon will open with a 1,500-meter open water swim in Lake Audubon and will be followed by a 25-mile bike and 10K run in Reston.

Going forward, the event will be held annually on the first Sunday following Labor Day.

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The festival takes place in Reston Town Square park tomorrow (courtesy Canine Companions)

A DogFest is coming to Reston Town Square Park tomorrow (Saturday).

The event, slated to take place from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. at 11900 Market Street, will benefit Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization that encourages clients and their dogs to live with greater independence. Activities include service dog demonstrations, music, games, speeches and activities for kids.

The event is free, but online registration is encouraged.

“Help us raise money to provide exceptional dogs for the over 400 people currently waiting for their new canine partners,” Canine Companions spokesperson John Bentzinger wrote in a release.

The organization was established in 1975 and is active in six regions across the country.

Dogs that take part in the event must adhere to several conditions, including being social, being up to date with vaccinations, and remaining on a leash no longer than six feet at all times.

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The $2 million grant from Amazon will preserve Alexandria area units.

A local project will receive $2 million in funding from Amazon to secure 18 affordable housing units in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County.

Amazon has awarded Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services, an Alexandria-based nonprofit organization that offers assistive housing services, with the grant to acquire 18 homes in the Colchester Towne Condominiums community of the county.

The homes will be preserved as affordable housing units for individuals earning 50 percent of the area median income, according to a report by the Washington Business Journal.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay lauded the nonprofit organization for receiving the grant, which is the second largest single donation the organization has received.

“Their vital mission is to provide high quality, affordable, stable housing to those who otherwise would have difficulty accessing it,” McKay wrote in a statement on social media.

The funding was allocated through Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund, a $2 billion commitment to preserve and build 20,000 affordable homes in three main hub regions. The initiative launched in January 2021 and has since preserved more than 6,200 affordable homes in the DC area.

The company awarded more than $163 million in loans and grants to 12 developers in the DMV region, according to WBJ.

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A new donation center opens tomorrow in Franconia (Photo via GreenDrop).

A new mobile donation center offers local residents another option to donate gently used items in Franconia’s Festival at Manchester Lakes Shopping Center. 

GreenDrop, a private organization, has partnered with the American Red Cross, Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation and the National Federation of the Blind for the donation center. Residents can donate gently used items to the center, which is located at 7015 Manchester Boulevard in the parking lot of the shopping center by Boardwalk Fries. 

The center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for drop-offs, including lightly-used clothing, shoes, blankets, kitchenware and household goods. An attendant will be on site to receive the items and asks donors to indicate which nonprofit organization they would like to donate to. Donors receive a tax deductible receipt. 

“We are thrilled to bring our sustainable services to the Festival at Manchester Lakes donation center and provide an easy, earth-friendly way for Fairfax County residents to support three deserving nonprofits,” said Jason Krieger, Director of GreenDrop operations. “We look forward to being an integral part of the Franconia community.”

GreenDrop is a  for-profit paid solicitor that accepts donation on behalf of other organizations. It aims to support nonprofit organizations through free-standing locations throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The company pays its nonprofit partners for the items individuals donate. 

A groundbreaking to celebrate the opening of the center is set for tomorrow (Friday) at 10 a.m. 

Photo via GreenDrop 

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The Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County has issued a call for innovators to pitch solutions that work toward carbon neutrality and clean energy.

Pitch and Pilot,” a county-led innovation challenge, aims to find and pilot new projects that improve energy efficiency, increase renewable electricity use, and encourage the use of electric vehicles.

The winning team will have the chance to pilot their proposal in the county.

The pitch competition is sponsored by the county, George Mason University, and Smart City Works, a local nonprofit organization.

“Finding answers that increase energy efficiency and shift from a carbon-based to a carbon-neutral economy is a central goal in Fairfax County’s Strategic Plan,” event organizers wrote in last week’s announcement. “The county is courting solutions because the county’s first-ever Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) calls for carbon neutrality within the community by 2050, with a 50% cut in carbon emissions by 2030.”

An orientation is slated for Sept. 15. The contest concludes with a public pitch contest on Oct. 19. The deadline to submit a two-page concept is Oct. 3.

Smart City Works aims to empower communities to solve urban challenges and improve economic growth through technological innovation.

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A fundraiser prepares to rappel down the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center in 2021 (courtesy Sweetheart Photography by Tammy)

For those who find the prospect of being 14 stories in the air exciting instead of terrifying, the Hyatt Regency at Tysons Corner Center has some available views without the rooms.

Dozens of rappellers will descend down the side of the hotel later this month for a charity fundraiser to support the nonprofit Helping Haitian Angels (HHA), which runs a school and orphanage in Delke, Haiti.

Now in its second year, the event is a partnership between the nonprofit and Over the Edge, an adventure company that was also behind a rappeling fundraiser at the Hilton in Arlington. That raised over $200,000 for the local nonprofit New Hope Housing in May.

“Hyatt Hotels has a long-standing history of supporting local nonprofit and global organizations,” said Jon Davenhall, the hotel’s general manager. “…Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center is excited to be the Presenting Sponsor and help make a lasting impact in the lives of children who are left vulnerable without the care of loving parents.”

The fundraiser has been split into two days, starting at 4 p.m. on Aug. 26 with a kick-off reception, media day, and local celebrity and sponsor participants. All of the fundraisers will then rappel down the hotel between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Aug. 27, according to a news release.

Funds raised by the event will go toward the construction of a secondary school and trade school at HHA’s Kay Anj Village campus in Haiti, HHA board member and Over the Edge event lead Carol Wallace says.

Founded in 2008 by a Christian missionary couple, HHA opened the Lekol Harvey Christian School for the children in its orphanage in October 2014 and now provides education and summer camps for up to 150 elementary school students and their parents, according to its website.

The new secondary and trade schools will serve older children as a complement to the existing school, which Wallace says “is thriving.”

“Children in the neighboring community of Dekle will also be invited to attend the secondary school once constructed,” Wallace said.

After landing 85 participants in 2021, HHA has upped the ante for this year’s Over the Edge event with a goal of 110 individuals. There are currently 44 people signed up, according to the event page.

Registration costs $50, which counts toward the minimum of $1,250 that aspiring rappellers must raise in order to participate.

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The marketplace concept is inspired by farmers markets (via Anne Preble/Unsplash)

This month, Fairfax County residents in need will have a couple of opportunities to stock up free fresh produce and other food.

The Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate is taking part in the Capital Area Food Bank‘s Community Marketplace program, which provides fresh produce every second Saturday of the month. The next distribution is slated for Saturday (Aug. 13) from 8:30 to 11 a.m. at the center, which is located at 12125 Pinecrest Road in Reston. 

The partnership is the product of an alliance between the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services and the food bank, which aims to bring food distributions to communities in need. 

Lately, nonprofit partners have reported high levels of food insecurity in the state and the county. Food insecurity is a growing challenge for moderate-income families in what is becoming a high cost-of-living area.

According to the food bank, one out of 10 residents in the D.C. region is food insecure, nearly a third of them children. 

The Willson Multicultural Center in Seven Corners will also hold a food distribution this month through a partnership with Comunidad, a nonprofit in Falls Church that aims to engage and help locally rooted community leaders.

The event serves over 250 families each month, and volunteers take boxes of food to the homes of local Ukrainian families.

The community marketplace concept intends to bring farmers-market-style opportunities with high-quality, fresh produce for people who are food insecure. The events often include cooking demonstrations, utility assistance, health screenings and descriptions for recipes.

Photo via Anne Preble/Unsplash

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